Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year

NB: This is one of the trams in Milan that has been decorated with lights. Its really fabulous to see it passing by at night!

It is the dawn of another year, and every year during this time, I go into a sort of panic. This is just partly because I'm getting older, but mainly because of the fact that I feel the need to press a rewind button in my head and go through the things or the lack of things I've done this year. It always makes me feel utterly unaccomplished and useless.

However, that said, I do feel as if I've come somewhere this year. Of course, I could have done so much more, but its these little things that count in the long run, right? I worked in an actual office for the first time in my life, and survived without being a complete klutz. I don't get cramps of crippling panic in my stomach when I have to phone unknown people to ask for information any more, I can successfully deal with meeting new people without making a complete fool of myself, I am not as bad with directions and navigation as I suspected myself to be, I don't mind asking people for help when I have completely and utterly lost my way (pride be damned). I can also navigate through almost any given public transport system in the world (because once you've managed to do it in Bombay, how hard can anywhere else be?). Oh, I am also super competent at filing documents, sending faxes and making databases of addresses and phone numbers of random companies on excel.

It just took just three months of office work for me to learn such important life lessons. If I ever manage to get a full time job, I just might write a book entitled 'Pearls of Office Wisdom - 101 ways to make your work life bearable and almost pleasant'.

Resolutions? I have a lots and lots of resolutions starting from: consume less chocolate, sleep for shorter hours, eat healthier food, less procrastination, more hard work, and ending with: more studying, watching less TV shows, reading more real books, learning to cook, learning to drive, being less grumpy, winning a Nobel Prize and solving the problems in the Middle East. I think it makes more sense to have a list of 'feasible' resolutions and 'infeasible' resolutions. But when I tried to do this I came to a very unpleasant conclusion, wherein I realized that most of my resolutions fell in the 'infeasible' category. So I think that it would be better if I just steered clear of resolutions this year.

So overall, I think its been a good year for me, in any case. I'm not sure what the coming year is going to bring, but I'll deal with it when it comes. When you become twenty one, you expect the universe to suddenly show you your place in the big scheme of things. Its very disappointing to note that this does not actually happen, so the only thing us lowly mortals can do is to go on living our lives and realize that its all going to fall into place eventually.

I wish everyone a super year ahead! Don't take my advice and go ahead make some resolutions :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's the Season to be Jolly

For the last few weeks, I haven't had a proper internet connection because we had to move our internet and telephone line from the old apartment to the new flat. So most of my days were spent hovering around the house with my laptop trying to find other people’s unsecured internet connections. Let me use some more space to complain about how horrid and selfish this world is. Is it actually necessary to secure your internet line? What is wrong with sharing it with lesser human beings who have internet problems, I ask you? There is one spot in my old flat that has almost fifteen different internet connections, where not even one is unsecured. Its just not fair, I tell you! People should be kinder to people in need, especially if I am the one who is in need.

Well, all this does not matter any more because I can now officially use my own internet connection in the new house without resorting to underhand internet stealing tactics. Now that we have finished moving to the new flat, I have to admit that it is beginning to grow on me. We have something that I like to call ‘the most comfortable couch in the world’. Once I sit on it, I am unable to get up from it. Its really not healthy for such comfortable furniture to be created. Its one of those low rise, new age, sofa/beds that is ridiculously comfy to sit on or sprawl over with a laptop or a book. Also, since its a relatively small apartment, the central heating actually makes the house into a tiny oven. The other day, I was happily moving around in a tank top and shorts when it was about 2°C outside.

I’m not actually sure how I’m going to manage to get any study/work done in such a comfortable environment. Of course, there are certain drawbacks I have to live with, like the fact that putting my mum and me in such close confines is a really bad idea. Luckily my dad’s here for the holidays, so its been quite nice lately. Pan’s dad hasn’t made much of an appearance on this blog, has he? Well, I should really devote a post on him one day because he is a super dad who puts up with all my childish nonsense and spoils me rotten, so I don’t have too much to complain about him (most of the times).

Milan is really beautiful for Christmas this year. I think the financial crisis has hit Italy pretty hard, and the city has taken extra efforts to make itself seem festive. The lighting and the decorations have outdone themselves, and I really ought to go out and take pictures to post them up, but I’m such a lazy, lazy human being that this is probably never going to happen.

I don’t have any elaborate plans for New Years’ Eve, but most people know what a grandma I am when it comes to parties. However, its nice to have some sort of plans once even a while, even if it just involves a dinner with school friends at someone’s house, getting drunk on champagne, inane gossiping about people we went to high school with, making home videos that no once actually remembers being on the next day, and then crawling off to sleep only to wake up with a headache the next morning. Its actually more fun than it sounds and I get to catch up with friends that I barely see once a year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What the Dickens?

I am of the view that every person must try and read at least one obscenely large novel a year. You get bonus points if its Victorian and/or written in particularly difficult language with a lot descriptive paragraphs and long sentences that don't make sense the first time you read them. Its a good character building exercise, and gives you an immense amount of self satisfaction when you are done.

I've had some sort of an unhealthy obsession for Victorian and Edwardian literature since I was twelve. I think it started when I watched a heavily edited, cartoon version of Oliver Twist. I loved it so much that I had to read the novel. I remember it being really hard; I took such a long time to finish it and understand what was actually happening. I was scarred for life by how the real book was so different from the cartoon. Some years ago, I went through a huge Dickens phase in my life where I ended up reading Our Mutual Friend, David Copperfield and Great Expectations in a row. It was a year where I had decided that only Victorian novelists were worth reading in this world. I always go through these insane phases. There was one year I read only dystopian fiction, another where the only thing I was reading was Gothic literature.

Most of these Victorian novels look like blocks of bricks rather than books. I think Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens' longest novels (and my favourite, along with A Christmas Carol - because we all know what a sucker Pan is for Christmas stories). I had had such an overdose of Victorian literature that year that I completely gave up on it for the last two/three years. Last month, on an impulse, I started reading Bleak House. It was lying abandoned in my bookshelf for the last couple of years. Even though I was burdened with work, I started reading it on a passing whim, and it made me recall all the reasons why I fell in love with Dickens in the first place.

I revel in other peoples' misery in books, but I do love a happy ending. Also, I have a fetish for books with long and complicated plots, pitiful damsels in distress, a flawed hero with good intentions who ultimately saves the day, life threatening diseases, grotesque, over-the-top villains, and Victorian London. I do realize that this sounds like the makings of a cheap, Victorian romance, but if written well, it has the potential of becoming into a David Copperfield or a Dracula.

Of course, there are a lot of things about Dickens that I don't like, especially his penchant for oppressed, beautiful female characters and miserable, ill treated orphans who more often than not end up dead. Of course, occasionally we do come across women like Estella Havisham, (who Pip so does not deserve) but even Estella is reduced to a pitiful state by the end of the book. However, I do realize that not everyone can be as cool as Becky Sharp, and I can live with that. Dickens also has a very annoying habit of rambling and being wordy about unimportant, minor characters, but I have yet to read a novelist who can tie up a plot as neatly as him. Plus, all Dickens novels have amazing illustrations, and he has a wicked sense of humour.

Bleak House is more than 950 pages long. I'm on my last 100 pages, and I almost don't want it to get over because I've become quite attached to it. I love lugging it around the house, trying to find a comfortable, lighted spot where I can sit on the floor next to the heater and read it (on the floor because presently, we don't have any furniture in our house) I don't like reading in bed because I invariably end up falling asleep, not because the book is soporific, but because my bed is so warm and comfortable that I can't help dozing off. I know some people who actually study in bed. How they manage this feat is something quite beyond me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moving Woes

Everyone knows how much I whine, but moving house is really something worth whining about. If it wasn't a painful process already, my family, as usual, has complicated things even further.

The problem is simple enough: we (my mum and I) are moving across the street to a new flat, but my father has to move to another country for reasons regarding his job. Well, my dad actually already moved two months ago. Thus, our current household has been split up into three parts - one part that went with my dad, another part that has gone to the new flat, and the third part, which is currently in this house has but has to eventually move with us to the new flat. Also, our new apartment is quite small, so most of the stuff has actually ended up going with my father, including but not limited to MY BOOKS.

If this was not complicated enough already, this division of stuff has taken place in three different time frames. The stuff that had to go with my father went about two months ago. The things that had to go to the new flat went two weeks ago, which leaves my mum and me currently living in an almost empty household until the end of this month.

My bedroom has no study table, but a bright lamp; my living room has a table, but no lamp. My mother keeps telling me how my grandfather used to study under candle light for his exams when he was my age, and that I should try doing the same. We don't even have a fridge in this house, which has led to my mother keeping milk and other things outside on the window edge. I don't know what everyone in our apartment block thinks about us, but as my mum cleverly pointed out, we are leaving the apartment by January, so we don't have to face these people again.

Why are we not living in the new flat and why have the movers already shifted our stuff to the new apartment when we are not actually living there yet, you might ask. This is because even though Italy pretends to be an OECD nation, it is secretly worse than a number of developing countries. The company that does the transfer does not have enough people working in December, so they had to move our stuff in the last week of November. However, we can't move into the new flat because the people who are supposed to fit the sink, the bath tub and kitchen appliances are unable to do so until the last week of December.

My stuff is sprawled around three houses and two continents, and I have no idea where anything is anymore. I sent more than 90% of my books and DVDs with my dad, yet I find myself with two huge cartons filled with books and another two filled with university textbooks with absolutely no space to keep them anywhere. My mother is understandably livid. I keep finding things that I had tucked away years ago randomly turning up, and am unable to find things that I was using less than a week ago. I never even realized that I owned so many things, and I haven't even started sorting out my clothes yet.

In other news, I have an important presentation and an exam on the SAME day next week. Additionally, I also have exams all through January and partly through February; you know those life changing, final year, end of semester university exams that your future depends on? Yes, those kind! I also have to give the GRE in March, and have a lot more things in between that I'm avoiding thinking about right now.

My mum and dad are behaving like lovesick teenagers, and it has stopped being cute after the first week. I wake up to my mum talking to my dad, and go to bed while listening to my mum talking to my dad. They have such scintillating discussions on topics ranging from the freshness of fruit sold in supermarkets in the respective nations of their abode to curtain measurements for the new flat. Its so domestic, and would have been adorable if I didn't have to live with it all the time and listen to how country X has fresher and more variety of apples than country Y.

Its snowing today, and this has cheered me up! Milan is such an odd city. We haven't got any snow for the last four years, and then suddenly it snows twice in less than a month. Of course, its not real snow; its more of a sludgy, makes-you-slip-while-walking kind of snow, but I'm not complaining. Plus, I'm at home right now drinking tea and listening to Christmas music on my itunes, that I have way too much of on my hard drive. Its hard to be grumpy when you have Frosty, the Snowman playing loudly in the background.

Monday, December 01, 2008

And it continues...

Once the drama is over, we have to face the backlash, namely in the form of politicians. Maybe I'm too cynical for my own good or maybe I've just learnt from the bad experiences I've had from the governments in my own country, but I don't have any faith in politicians. When you see the so called leaders of your country making statements like, "minor incidents do happen in big cities" you need to take a step back and think about what has gone wrong. This morning, I just found out that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra went to survey the damage done inside the Taj with his son, who is a Bollywood actor and a film director (who specializes in making crime movies). Ram Gopal Varma claims that they just happened to be there, and it was not a planned visit, as if I or the rest of the country are going to believe this pitiful excuse.

I know that these people have resigned, but that isn't going to help, is it? Its not like we have anyone else who can do the job better. I don't see how the Congress is going to be re-elected into Maharashtra or India this way. So who are we left with? The Shiv Sena? Yes, all we need in this mess is a neo-radical, racist, militant (and I'm running out of adjectives to describe them) organization to lead us. Why don't we start going around, and burning the city down ourselves instead of waiting for them to do it for us? We just don't have anyone we can depend on, which is weird because you would think there would be a lot of people in the nation to choose from.

The problem in India (and well, the rest of the world) is that we seem to be unable to produce able politicians. Its not that we are lacking intelligent people. I mean, there are one billion of us out there, so by just taking probability into account we have ended up with a lot of smart, capable people. The problem is none of these intelligent, capable people want to deal with politics, and a part of me doesn't even blame them for this. So all we are left with are the likes of Narendra Modi and L.K Advani, and even someone with my limited knowledge and feigned indifference to politics can see this is never going to take us towards development.

Mind you, I'm not one of those people who likes to sit at home and complain about how they don't support either side and are not going to vote. I dislike the people that refrain from voting because even if you don't support either side, you need to make a some sort of a decision. Sitting at home, complaining and writing angy blog posts about how you hate everyone is not going solve anything. Either you vote for someone else or you take charge yourself, stand for elections and do things the right way, which is something no one is willing to do. Voting is a right, no its a privilege given to you in a democracy, and its your duty as a citizen of your country to exercise it.

If all this wasn't bad enough, we just like to pull out our trump card in situations like these and blame Pakistan. Lets just ignore the fact that you are unable to pay attention to all the warnings that you've received about some sort of an attack that was going to take place, unable to control and guard the borders of your own country, and blame another country who is in a pretty shit shape by themselves and really doesn't need you to bring them down any further. I'm not saying that Pakistan is or is not responsible for what has happened, I think that we should first sort out our deficiencies before putting all the blame on someone else. Pak bashing is and will always used to appease the nation when its angry, but this should really stop because its not a solution to our problems.

All I want is someone to tell me that they have messed up and that they are going to try their best in the future to make sure this is not going to happen again. Why is this so hard to do?

Friday, November 28, 2008

What are they doing to my city?

I've spent the last hour going through pictures, and I just can't seem to understand what is happening to the city I know and love so much. I have never seen Bombay like this, and its been really hard for me to see it in this state.

My uncle and aunt live on this street and I spent three months here this summer, its unbelievable seeing it this way.

While I am unable to handle what is happening, people around me are happily ignorant. Yesterday, not a single person at uni asked me how I felt about the fact that terrorists had taken over my city. Its not like my friends don't care; all of them are happily living in their own little bubble, with their own lives and problems. People just do not care about what is happening in the world, and I hate this indifference more than anything else.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Just less than two months ago, I was sitting in the Oberoi lobby for more than an hour, getting bored out of my mind, while waiting for my work delegation to arrive. I saw a video last night, where the entire lobby that overlooks the sea is blasted apart, and I just keep thinking about how I was sitting in that exact place such a short while ago.

We used to go to Leopolds' so often while I was there. In fact, on my last day at work, we went there for dinner, and I know how crowded it is in the evenings. My mind is unable to even imagine how this can happen in a restaurant that I've been so many times to.

I watched The Dark Knight in the Metro cinema, and complained about the quality of their popcorn. This is where three high profile police officers were killed in cold blood, I used to pass this place every day while going to work.

My grandma took a train from CST a couple of hours before the shootings occurred. She didn't realize what was happening until she got home and saw the news.

The Taj Mahal hotel is one of my favourite buildings in the city. Its so beautiful, archaic, built in the wrong direction and sticks out like a sore thumb in its surroundings; I just can't imagine Bombay without it.

My aunt and her family could hear gun shots all night long. They live less than 500 meters from all these places. They also live right next to the Colaba Fire Brigade, and can still hear the trucks and sirens passing by.

The point is that this is not something happening in a random city somewhere in the world. Its happening in my home, around the area where I was living less than two months ago, in the places that I used to walk past every day. I keep seeing footage showing the streets around where I was living, and I'm in a state of disbelief. Those streets are so familiar to me, and I can't seem to accept all what is happening. Bombay is just such an amazing city, the people there work very hard to live and survive, and the last thing we need is something like this.

I have an important homework due in this afternoon, and I am unable to concentrate. Last night, I was watching the news and trying to solve finance equations at the same time. It seems so shallow to be doing homework when something like this is happening, but what can I do?

Friday, November 21, 2008

5 Centimeters Per Second

I'm not much of an anime fan. I know that if I tried, I'd probably really love it and be one of those crazy, otakus. However, anime is such a big, big genre that I'd be so lost if I tried getting into it, and twenty one is really too old an old age to start obsessing about cartoons, isn't it? There are some things in this world that are just too vast and scary for me to venture into, even though I know that if I probably tried I'd love them like manga, graphic novels, Discworld, anime and the list is quite long.

That said, the only anime films I have seen are by Hayao Miyazaki, who also happens to be my favourite Japanese man in the word, and no, not even Kimura Takuya's adorable smile can take my love for Hayao away. I have seen almost all of Miyazaki's films; Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivary Service, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and My Neighbour Totoro. In fact, the only non Miyazaki anime film that I ever watched is the one that I'm going to write about below. I don't even know how I stumbled across it and ended up watching the trailer. I think it was the music and the amazing animation that made me want to watch the film.

The trailer doesn't do much justice to the animation, but if you watch it in higher definition, the artwork just fabulous. I have never seen such beautiful animation before, and it just pulls you into the movie. The movie itself, I have to say that I would have probably loved it if I was fifteen and sentimental, but watching it now just made me feel a little sad. The film is divided into three subsections of 22 minute each and is relatively short.

The first section starts when the narrator, Takaki is a child in middle school, where he befriends the new girl in school, Akari and they become very close. I'd have liked to say that they fall in love, but I know how silly that sounds because they are twelve. The whole section is narrated in a series of letters between the two children, and we find out that Akari has now moved to another city with her family. We also find out that the Takaki's family is also soon going to be moving far away to a small town in the country. However, before he has to leave, he decides to go and meet Akari once more.

There is this lovely sequence detailing his journey about how terrified and anxious he is, how the train is very late, and every moment passing is only increasing is anxiety about the fact that she is not going to come to meet him. When he finally reaches his destination, the station is deserted, but she is there waiting for him. They spend the night sitting up and talking in a barn and he leaves the next morning. Before he leaves they share an innocent kiss, but what could be an potential 'awww' worthy moment is really a sad one because it is at that time Takaki realizes that their relationship is never going to work out. Instead of being happy, the only thing Takaki can feel is sadness and grief because he knows that nothing in his future is ever going to measure up to the happiness felt when he was with Akari that night.

We then move on to the second section of the film, which can actually be seen as independent from the first and third part. Most people thought that it wasn't very relevant to the film, but I think I disagree. This is told from the point of view of Kanae, a girl in Takaki's new school. Several years have passed by, and Takaki is now a popular teenager in high school. Kanae has been in love with Takaki for a very long time, and everyone else apart from Takaki knows this.

However hard Kanae tries to get Takaki to notice her, he just doesn't seem to pay any attention to her or anyone else around him because he is so involved in his own thoughts. There is this poignant scene where Kanae finally realizes that no matter what she does Takaki is never going to notice her because he is searching for something that she will never be able to give him. Takaki lives in a world that she is never going to be a part of, and she has to learn to move on with her life.

This is when we go on to the third and final section. This section has almost no dialogue, but we find out that Takaki is now an adult working as computer programmer. He is still unable to open up emotionally to anyone, even his girlfriend, who breaks up with him. He inadvertently seems to be searching for Akari whenever he sees crowds. We also see Akari who is now engaged to another man. It is clear that over the years, Takaki and Akari have lost contact with one another. Yet, we see that they are both thinking and pining for that moment of happiness they shared as children. However, the only difference is that Akari seems to have accepted this and has moved on with her life, when Takaki is clearly unable to.

Takaki finally realizes that his youth is almost over, and that he has to let go of his longing and nostalgia for his childhood days with Akari, but whether he is able to do this or not, we never know because the film ends. The music used in the last section is amazing, and I love the song that plays in the final scene of the movie.

As I said, if I was fifteen, I would have probably loved the film because there is nothing I understand better than teen angst. I would have probably written long posts about how Takaki and Akari were soul mates and meant to be together, but seeing it now just made me want to slap some sense into Takaki. A part of me can understand his feelings for Akari, but there is a bigger part in me wanting to bang his head against something hard and make him realize all the things he has lost or never even noticed, like Kanae, because of how self involved he is. The only reason why Takaki is unhappy is because he has made himself unhappy and not because of the fact that Akari is not in his life.

NB: Ok, this post has become way longer than what it should be because I have a tendency to ramble, but today is Friday, my week-from-hell is almost over and I'm cheerful enough to talk about things of no consequence.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The joys of being a student

After three years at university, I've become quite used to being burdened with work, so its not that much of a big deal. But I don't think I have ever had so many things to do in such a short period of time. I have so much to do that when I start thinking about it, I end up feeling a bit ill in my stomach. As most of you already know how fond I am lists, I thought that I might as well make one in order to make myself feel worse than I already do for wasting so much time.

The things that need to be urgently done are:
  1. A homework in corporate finance which is due on this Friday (yes, I am well aware that this happens to be in less than 48 hours). This is supposed to be time consuming and involves me reading and understanding three chapters worth of something that I have no clue about.
  2. A super important, twenty page, group report that is due next Friday. Currently this is consuming 50% of my time because of my anal group. I mean, its pretty hard to find people that are more anal than I am in this world, and I had to end up in the same group as ALL of them!
  3. Another super important, time consuming, group project in corporate finance that is also due in on next Friday, based on those three chapters that I have yet to read and/or understand. This was given to us yesterday and one of the guys my group has already contacted me telling me that he's dropping out and another girl has written me an email telling me that she has no time to come for our project meeting on Friday and will do whatever she can to help us on it from home.
  4. A detailed project plan which is due on the exact same Friday as point number 2 and 3 for another course that I'm studying. We have no idea what we are going to do our project on and have no time to think about it, so we're going to leave this until the last moment until we freak out about it and work under pressure.
  5. A midterm on a course that I have yet to open my text book for on the 20th of November, which is a date much nearer than I would like it to be.
  6. Catching up with my French homework and the more than dozen French lectures that I have missed while doing other things (namely having group meetings for our project where we spent time arguing on whether our project should be in British English or American English)
  7. If all this was not enough, we are moving house sometime in December, so I have to start sorting my seven years worth of accumulated stuff as soon as possible. I foresee a lot of arguments with my mother in the near future.
  8. I also have to go to a birthday party of a person I couldn't care less about on Friday. This means that I have to find time somewhere in the next 48 hours to go buy a present.
  9. My mother is coming home on Sunday after being away from the house for almost a month. So, I have to do some crazy house-cleaning on Saturday because right now, everything is a mess and my mum would probably have a heart attack if she saw the house in its current condition.
  10. The fridge currently has one squishy tomato and three carrots. I have to go to the supermarket as urgently as possible, but I've been going to university at 8 in the morning and coming back home well after 7 at night for the last three days. I'm so glad my mother is coming back!
I am seriously not sure how I am going to survive this month. If all this wasn't bad enough, the weather has been terrible lately. I have forgotten what the sun looks like because we haven't actually seen the sun from this city for the past month. All I want to do is read my book in bed and marathon The West Wing, which is my new favourite TV show. Ok, now that I'm done whining and feeling sorry for myself, I feel a little better. I should do angy ranting more often, shouldn't I?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yes We Can!

I admit it, I sniveled a bit when I heard him talk. It was one of the most touching speeches that I have ever listened to. After staying up for most of the night nervously watching BBC, I actually thought I was hallucinating when they finally announced the results.

And as a side note, I have to say that BBC has come to be my favourite news channel. The night had some truly memorable moments.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To Autumn

I know I'm no Keats, and so my poetry writing skills might fall short while describing my love for this season. However, I absolutely love autumn, and it is definitely my favourite season. Growing up in Bombay didn't give me much of an opportunity to experience the phenomenon of seasons (unless you count four months of torrential rainfall as a season), which is why I think I enjoy them more than most people.

The other day when I was going to lectures in the morning, it was a beautiful sunny day, the temperature was about 15°C and the sky was bright blue with not a single cloud in the vicinity. I love it when the weather is like this. I would happily be able to live in this climate all year around. Its warm enough to wear a short or a long sleeved tshirt when you're indoors, but you need a jacket and a scarf to go outside; its too cold for sandals, but you can wear open shoes/pumps without any problems; its too cold to feel sweaty and stuffy, but not too cold for ice cream.

Autumn in Milan is beautiful, especially when the day is sunny. The trees are all red and orange, there are leaves everywhere, vendors have started selling roasted chestnuts, you can see the old trams moving busily along their tracks, people seem to be going about doing their work, the shops are changing window decorations to autumn clothes, schools and universities have just started, and people are out on the street in the evening catching up with their friends after having been away for the summer. All the summer heat and irritation seem to have faded away, and the weather is pleasant enough for you to enjoy without freezing to death.

Spring is lovely, but you always seem to expect more from it. Each day in spring brings you closer to summer, closer to freedom, closer to holidays, and happiness. Its not a season that you can sit back and enjoy, but a season where you are busy with exams and deadlines. I barely even notice spring passing by. Winter; lets face it, winter sucks! I wouldn't mind the cold because I like cold weather, but its the darkness that just depresses me. I can never get used to the fact that the sun in winter sets at 4 in the afternoon. By the time I get out of my lectures at 6, its pitch dark and the town seems empty and quiet. Summer, what can I say about summer? It is never long enough! It passes by too quickly for you to even remember where the days have gone, and before you know it, its autumn already.

NB: I wrote this post a couple of days ago, and its been raining continuously ever since; the sky is cloudy and dark, and there is no sign of any sunlight. It has also become much colder. I think my post has totally jinxed the weather. I've been listening to Edith Piaf all day in my dark house; all I need is some coffee and cigarettes, and I could pretend to be an artsy brooder contemplating the deeper meaning of life and relationships.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Son of Rambow

I have to admit that I teared up a bit while I was watching this film. Ok, it doesn't take much for me to cry while watching movies because I tend to get overly emotional. I mean, I cried while watching You've Got Mail (even though I am never going to admit this in real life, and before anyone gets all judgemental on me, I'd like to point out that I was thirteen when I saw it), so I get sensitive quite easily during films.

However, I was quite impressed with Son of Rambow. I saw some adverts promoting the film when I was in London last year on the public transport and mentally laughed about the title thinking it was some sort of a B-movie, you know like The Loin King, Romancing the Bone, Forest Hump, Saving Ryan's Privates, etc. A couple of months ago, I read a review and found out that it was actually an independent film that premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival. I have always had a certain love for indie movies even though I pretend not to care much about them because I don't want people to think I'm a hipster.

Son of Rambow is is not a life changing movie, and nor does it pretend to be. It is a coming-of-age film about two boys coming from different backgrounds growing up in 1980's England trying to enter a film competition by making a sequel to Rambo. Its got all the elements an indie movie needs - a good soundtrack consisting of unknown bands, quirky characters, bizarre minor characters, a deep and meaningful message at the end of it shown by a minor incident that occurs during the film, and a feel-good finale.

What starts as a small movie project between two friends slowly envelopes the whole school because of a certain French exchange student and ends up straining their friendship. What I loved about the film was the changing dynamics between the central characters, where the shy kid (Will) suddenly becomes cool throughout the school and the aggressive bully (Lee Carter) is the one who wants their film to stay between the two of them. The film has some really lovely poignant moments particularly in the scene where Will's mother tells her bossy, overbearing priest to literally fuck off or the scene when Will and Lee Carter decide to become blood brothers for life, and the scene when Lee tells Will why he always puts up with his older brother's bullying and defends him. There are some great scenes that show Will's imagination running wild. It kind of reminded me of the time when I was a kid and my imagination used to flit from one thing to another before I could even realize where my mind was going.

The in-between filming scenes of the documentary are most amusing especially the ones after Didier (the French exchange student) and his troop join in. The final product is utterly hilarious, and I love the bit when Lee's brother leaves him a serious and deep message while playing the Scarecrow in the final scene. In short, this is a cute movie that you should watch when you're in your house, on a rainy day, wanting to watch a light movie without any deep subtext, and can't think of anything else.

PS: One of the boys in the film is going to play my favourite character, Eustace Clarance Scrubb in the next Narnia movie, and I can't wait for it to come out!

PPS: An additional reason to watch this film is because its got Chuck Bass, playing Lee's older brother (with an adorable British accent that takes time getting used to even though that is Ed Westwick's actual accent), and anything that has Chuck's approval is definitely worth watching.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

9 to 5

I always though that I wasn't cut out for nine to five jobs, but working for three months in an office has made me realize that I don't mind them all that much. Ok, there is the whole 'Oh god, I hate this mindless drudgery' factor, but how many people can boast of earning money while doing something they genuinely like?

To tell you the truth, its not like I earned any money while I was working, since it was an unpaid internship. All I got was university credits and an experience to last me a lifetime, as the internship guide said. The problem with working in an office that is not paying you is that they don't care much about what you're doing, which is not always a bad thing because it gives you a lot of time to do other things that you've always meant to do but never got around doing (i.e blogging, catching up with tabloids, looking at universities, wasting time on wikipedia etc.)

Being the lowly intern that I was, I arrived at office in the morning at 8.45 a.m and was given some menial tasks for the day. I browsed the internet, did the crossword and/or sudoku, worked for a bit, had lunch, chatted with my colleagues, made a few calls for work, updated and charged my ipod, worked a bit more and then got ready to leave by 5.30 p.m. That sounds like a nice day, doesn't it? I don't know why people complain about their jobs so much. This lifestyle suited my lazy self muchly. Most of the day was spent hanging around and waiting for my boss to come to office, which was mildly irritating in the beginning, but I got used to it soon enough.

It wasn't a bad life, but it wasn't a particularly stimulating one either. The week used to pass so quickly that I didn't even have time to think where time was passing, and by the time I realized I was tired, it was already the weekend. If I had a choice I'd probably not get out of bed for two days straight, but my friends wouldn't hear it otherwise, and I used to occasionally be dragged out in the evenings by either my school friends or work colleagues. Before I had time to even think about what was happening, three whole months were already over!

I had a good time at work, but this could be because I wasn't burdened with work to do or because my colleagues were really fun or maybe because it was the first time I was working, so I was over-enthusiastic. Sometimes, when I am drudging through exams and finance calculations, I happily think back about the time where my day used to consist solely of writing emails, making phone calls sending out faxes, and then a nine to five job doesn't seem all that bad!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the most underrated city ever

The minute I stepped into this city, I knew I was in love. Maybe it was because I hadn't slept in over forty eight hours, or had just come from one of the hottest cities in Spain where the temperatures were 40°C into a suitable, temperate climate, or because of the fact that we were booked in a hotel for once, instead of shared dorms where I had been living for the previous fortnight, or it could have just been because the town was just so overwhelmingly picturesque; I knew that I was going to love it before I had even seen it properly.

I haven't travelled half as much as I would want to, but I've been around Western Europe a bit, and in spite of all my travelling, Porto caught me completely unaware. Portugal is a beautiful country; it has everything from good looking men to delicious food and fabulous buildings, and I expected it to be nice before I went there. But I had spent the previous week in Barcelona and Madrid, and its pretty hard to be impressed with anything after visiting these two places. I never thought that Porto would actually be comparable to anything we had seen in Spain.

I was very pleased to be proven wrong, because Porto was just beautiful. Its too small a place to be even labelled as a city, but too big to be called a town. Its one of those places that sits right in between a city and a town, where you can enjoy the pleasures of a big city, while having the calm, lazy atmosphere of a small town. It is a sort of place where you don't even need a map for navigation because all roads take you from the main square to the riverbank and vice versa.

The first thing that struck me about this city was that it was just so colourful. I've never seen a town more colourful that Porto, and I live in Italy, so I know about colour! Sometimes, I think that European cities look more vivid to the eye when you look at black and white photographs because they are so ancient, monochrome and made of stone, but in Porto, it is the colour that makes this city come to life.

The city is positioned on a hill, so you need to walk uphill quite often, which is very tiring, but you get used to that after a few hours, and the view from the top is worth the climb. I have never seen a city with more churches than I saw here. From any given place, you can probably count at least five to ten church roofs, and the churches are architecturally very different from anything you find in Italy or Spain. I must say that even though the churches seem quite bare after the extravagance you see in Italy, they have their own charm. I also fell in love with the blue and white tiles that are used everywhere, from residential buildings and random walls to church façades.

Everything in this place gives you feeling of being ancient. It is as if someone has built it a long time ago, and completely forgotten about the town they built, and it was not unusual to find abandoned or burnt down buildings while walking around. I just adored the buildings all around the city and went crazy talking pictures of random houses. They were so charming; I know it sounds very grandmotherly to use the word 'charming' to describe something, but I can't think of a more fitting adjective to describe these buildings.

If all this was not enough, the excellent wine and delicious food in Porto is should be able to convince anyone who still has any lingering doubts about how amazing this city is. The photo above doesn't do enough justice to the francesinha, which tastes just as good as it looks. Porto is also one of the cheapest European city I have been to. Everything there is about 10% cheaper than the rest of Europe. After Madrid and Milan, it really felt as if we had struck gold.

Another reason why I am never going to forget Porto is because it has the most adorable bookshop in the world. After Paris, I never though I would fall in love with another bookshop again, until I stumbled onto this one. We just landed there by chance while randomly strolling around. They should really make it illegal to have such overwhelmingly pretty bookshops because people are unable to concentrate on the books the shop actually sells.

Porto is definitely one of the most underrated European cities, and worth visiting by anyone who is thinking of travelling around Europe.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Parlez-vous français?

As a part of my university requirements, I have to study an additional language this year. When I say additional, I mean that this will be the second foreign language that I would have studied in the course of my three years at uni. My university well lives up to its Eurocentric reputation and only offers courses only in European languages. Hence, I had a choice between Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Unfortunately, I couldn't choose Italian as my second foreign language because I had already studied it as my first foreign language, which is why I was forced to choose something else from the above list.

Six years ago when I was still a young fledgling, I had to study French in my old school in Bombay, which basically involved the school giving us lists of vocabulary and grammar rules, and us memorizing them without understanding what we were studying. Can you imagine what Indianized French sounds like? Well, you shouldn't bother much with it because it is quite painful to hear. The only thing my French lessons from school helped me to do was to have a good topography of Paris in my head. I pretty much knew my way around Champs Elysée, Place de la Concorde, L'Arc de Triomphe, Le Tour Eiffel, Musée du Louvre, Rue Saint-Honoré, Avenue d'Opéra, Montmatre well before I went to Paris.

So when the time came for me to choose a language this year, I didn't even give it a second thought and chose French. I mean, however beautiful Portuguese and German may sound, you don't see me learning them in a year, do you? And keeping my love for Spanish men and Spain apart, I couldn't possibly learn a language that sounds as crude as Spanish. No, not even Gujarati sounds as vulgar as Spanish, and so I didn't even think about the other options.

It all seemed simple enough until I realized that someone had forgotten to mention that I had to learn my second foreign language in my first foreign language. Yes folks, I am actually studying French in Italian. All of you can probably stare at your computer screens and look mildly amused, but this is no a laughing matter. I can barely manage speaking and understanding Italian, throw French into the equation and my nerves just crumble like a pack of cards.

Its very scary to be put in a foreign language class with a bunch of Italian native speakers, most of whom have previously studied French the right way in high school. My teacher keeps reciting these long sentences that she wants translated into French. I have to translate the Italian into English in my head and then translate the English back in to French in my head and then actually say it out loud. All of this has to be done in less than a second while the teacher and the rest of the class is waiting for me to reply. Its so stressful, especially since my teacher has to policy of making everyone in class talk at least once out loud during the lesson. This means that I can't even hide behind people in the background and try to merge in with the crowd.

If this was once a week for an hour each time, I might still be able to happily handle it without getting terrified each time, but I have French thrice a week, two one and a half hour lessons and one two and a half hour lesson. This year is truly going to pass very slowly. However, being your spunky narrator that I am, I will not give up without a fight, may it be in Italian or French. I am determined to do well because I've wanted to learn French for so long, and now I finally have an opportunity, albeit in Italian. It is truly a beautiful language and I do have a soft spot for French men, so that is always an incentive, right?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Travelling Fun

I don't mind airline travel. In fact, I quite look forward to it, especially when I'm travelling alone. I don't know why it bores most other people I know. I suppose, it is a bit lonely seeing families travelling for holidays together when you're sitting in a corner all by yourself reading a book, but all in all, its quite a bit of fun. Since I am the laziest person I know, sitting stationary in a moving vehicle has always been a fascinating principle to me, which is why I have always loved plane rides, road trips and train journeys.

I also have mental capacity of a five year old, which means that I am very easy to please. So you just need to give me a book, an ipod and maybe an good inflight movie, and I am the happiest girl in the world. I am also lucky enough to have the skill of sleeping through practically anything, so that also helps me kill the hours. The only thing I need to fall asleep is music playing in the background, and I sleep as well as Fluffy. Ok, bad Harry Potter references apart, this habit of mine does cause me to waste precious ipod battery. However, it is a really great feeling to fall asleep with your ipod on and then wake up hours/minutes later to find it still running. Also, if you're really weird you could just press the back button and see the entire list of songs that played while were asleep and have no memory of hearing any of them (not that I would do anything as silly as this)

The most fulfilling plane journey that I've ever been through is the forty minute journey between Zurich and Milan. It was so beautiful, and if I was any good at taking pictures and if I had a camera on me, I would have taken fancy pictures, and posted them up here, but even those would not have done any justice to that scenery. It just cheered me up so much, and even the prospect of going to lectures the next morning could not have brought me down. What could possibly be better than sitting by the window seat in one of the tiniest commercial planes in the world, on a clear sunny morning, admiring the beauty of the Swiss Alps while sipping watery airline tea, and having the soundtrack of Singh is King blasting into your ears?

That, my dear friends, was true happiness; a kind of happiness that does not come with spending an evening with your friends or buying new shoes or watching a good film; no, it was a kind of happiness that does not have any reason at all, a sort of happiness that makes you feel completely satisfied with the big scheme of things. Just for that tiny, fleeting moment, you are at peace with the world, completely satisfied with what you have, and have no desires of any sort.

I just got back last Tuesday and have been so busy with the start of a new term at uni. Its hard to imagine that I was in Bombay, getting into moving trains and buses, fighting the rain and the crowd, and eating unhealthy, roadside junk food just less than a week ago. But its been good to get back home. I am always complaining about Milan, but whenever I'm away from here for long periods of time, and come back, I always get the feeling of coming back home. OK, I finally admit it after six long years of living here, Milan is home, and I truly love living here regardless of all my complaining.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Life as a n00by b00by

I was so ridiculously nervous on my first day at work. If I hadn't been so terrified, I might have seen the humour in the situation. I am very ashamed to admit that before this internship, I had never worked before in my entire life. Twenty years without doing a decent day's job is something that doesn't go well on a person's CV, and so I decided that to use this summer to do something more useful than lying around on a sunny Mediterranean beach.

I landed in Bombay on a Saturday night and my internship was to start on a Monday morning. I knew that I was going to be in Bombay right in the middle of the monsoons and kind of expected all the rain. However, I wasn't expecting the heavens to start celebrating with my arrival with a deluge of tropical rainfall. I figured that the rain would subside by the time it was Monday because it couldn't possibly rain continuously for more than twenty four hours, could it? Clearly, six years away from the city had taken away my memories of its wild rainfall.

It rained on Sunday morning, on Sunday afternoon, on Sunday evening and on Sunday night. I went to bed hoping that it would subside by the next morning because I didn't particularly relish going to work on my first day under the pouring rain. But luck, as usual, deluded me and it was pouring so much on Monday morning that I couldn't even look at the building in front of my house through the window.

I decided to take a taxi to work instead of trying to brave it out and wait for the bus like I had initially planned on doing. I was also very paranoid about reaching late, so I left extremely early and was wearing formal clothes and flip flops (and carrying my nice sandals in my bag). As a result, I arrived at work at 8.30 instead of 9, which was actually the time I had to report.

The first thing I noticed was that the office was flooded with ankle length deep water and one of the doors to the office was blocked due to the creation of a large muddy pond. Additionally, everything, including the computer CPUs and the wires were swimming around in the water. The office was also practically empty. I mustered up some courage and bashfully introduced myself to the receptionist who had thankfully just arrived. She told me in the nicest possible manner that one could to tell me that she didn't think that anyone would actually come to work today because of the rain, and I could sit wherever I found some space in the office.

Slowly people started trickling into office by around 10.30/11.00 in the morning and I had to undergo a very painful experience of explaining my life story, the circumstances under which I had come to live in Italy, study in Milan, and come back to Bombay. After knowing all they had to know about my life in under ten minutes, people eventually lost interest and went about doing their work as I sat uncomfortably counting the cracks in the ceiling. I was so worried the office was going to blow up any second because of all the wires that were floating in the water and that we were all going to die that I kept thinking of creative ways of quickly exiting the building. However, everyone else seemed relaxed enough as if this was a regular occurrence and continued working on their computers.

I sat on a chair all day, did the sudoku in the newspaper and read a fashion magazine until someone finally noticed that I existed. They were very nice and told me that my boss wasn't going to be in office for the day and that they didn't know what to do with me because there was neither a seat or a computer free for me in the office. There is clearly not much one can say to that. I got back home feeling very lonely and left out.

The next day, the sun was shining brightly; I got the bus on time; the office was no longer immersed in a puddle of muddy water; I took my laptop to work; someone created space for me to sit; people seemed friendlier; I was given my own stationary pile (and we all know that nothing makes your narrator happier than the sight of new stationary); someone invited me to sit with them for lunch; and my boss came and gave me work to do. It was what an ideal first day should have been!

Friday is my last day and work, and I am truly going to miss coming here daily. All these people that initially seemed scary and unapproachable turned out to be really nice and friendly, and I sort of feel silly for being so nervous around them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ring of Fire

When things like this happen in this country, I really don't know what to think or do apart from sit glued to the television screen watching news channels. Even after I have kind of figured out what exactly has happened, a part of me feels guilty for wanting to switch the television off. So, I keep it on, and keep seeing the same reports and videos again and again.
A few days ago, I was talking with a colleague about how dangerous it has become for people living in Indian cities due to all the bomb blasts that have been happening in the recent years, and yesterday there were blasts in Delhi. When something like this happens, which is pretty often in the world these days, I go through four main stages:
  1. Fear - When the news first hits me, I get very scared; I worry about the people I know who live in that place. I don't know if all my friends/relatives are alright and try to reassure myself before contacting them as soon as possible. I also get frightened thinking about what would happen if something like that happened in an area where I was around. How would my family possibly be able to deal with anything happening to me?
  2. Anger - I then get irritated at the unfairness of it all; I get really mad that things like this keep happening in this country and no one seems to be doing anything about it. All I keep reading in the papers is how investigations are always coming to a dead end. Every months there new blasts happening where hundreds for innocent people are mindlessly killed for no reason at all. Additionally if you notice, its always the poor people end up dying or getting injured; people who were going about doing their work, and minding their own business. You never hear of fat industrialists dying, do you?
  3. Helplessness - Then I am always overcome with a sense of sadness for being unable to do absolutely anything about these things. Sometimes, I get really scared because even if I had the power to do something and save the world, I don't even know if I would bother to save the world. I know myself well, and yet I don't know what I would do if I faced a choice between risking my life and saving the world, or sitting at home, on my bed browsing the internet.
  4. Indifference - And then slowly, all these emotions fade away. I get distracted thinking about other things that are going on in my life. I still feel sorry about what has happened, but I know that it hasn't affected me in any way, so I go on with my life; I change the channel on the telly. If I'm feeling particularly vehement, I might make an angy blog post or two, but apart from this, I don't do anything else and go about minding my own business until something like this happens, and the whole cycle of emotions begins once again.
I feel horrible when I behave in this manner because I know I should be feeling more, or doing more. However, I can't help being hardened by the fact that events such as these have happened so many times before, not only in India, but everywhere in the world. Maybe I'm just too cynical for my own good, but I know that nothing is ever going to be done to stop these things and people are going to keep dying for no reason whatsoever.
How many people have the courage to admit that they have stopped caring/counting the blasts that have happened in Iraq anymore or the number of innocent people that have died there? I'm not even going to ask people about Israel or Palestine because I am pretty sure that people have just stopped following the news on this matter, and there is nothing more left to be said.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blogshead Revisited

Its been more than a year since my last blog post and I know that I have been missing for a ridiculous amount of time. To tell you the truth, I've been wanting to resume blogging for a very long time now, but have been putting it off at the back of my head. The thought of starting over from the very beginning seems very daunting, doesn't it? I'm pretty sure that the handful of people who might be reading my blog earlier have probably removed it from their sidebars.

I don't have any nice blogger friends any more, apart from one, who I'd like to think is also my friend in real life. But I have bravely decided to start blogging again, at least for a while and see how it goes. I'm sure its going to be as much fun as it was the first time, and I promise to try my best to update as regularly as possible.

A lot of things can change in one year, but nothing much seems to have changed in my life. I'm a year older, and that isn't as fun as it used to be. I still remember how desperate I was to become thirteen and I had made this whole countdown upto my birthday. But once you become twenty, birthdays just remind me of how time is running out. I feel old; everyone else seems to be younger and more accomplished than me. Ok, I admit that this doesn't take much effort, but earlier at least I had my young age as an excuse for my laziness, but now even that seems to have gone away.

However, on a less depressive note, there have been a lot of changes. I've travelled quite a bit in the last whole year, and I'll be surely be talking about that in my future posts. I'm just a year away from getting out of university (but I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to dread it or look forward to it, although presently I'm tilting towards the latter option).

I've been in Bombay for the last three months working an as intern here, which is as lowly as it sounds. I have always heard horror stories about interns being used as slaves in the offices that they are working in, but my experience here has been surprisingly pleasant. Also, living in Bombay after being away for almost six years has been wonderful. I know I always look at Bombay with rose tinted glasses, but I can't help it, I've always been like this. I've been braving the monsoon and taking public transport every day for the last three months and I still don't seem to mind much (even though I shriek like a twelve year old every time my hair gets wet!)

I still have a couple of weeks to go before uni starts and I'll try my best to be prolific before that.